The A’s relationship with the City of Oakland appeared to reach a tipping point on Tuesday.
In a move that some would call glorified blackmail and others would frame as the last resort of a organization that has exhausted it’s resources, the Oakland A’s, with support from Major League Baseball, made it clear they have already begun looking at potential options to relocate the franchise as they wait for the City Council to approve, or not, their proposal for a new waterfront ballpark at Howard Terminal.
Would the A’s really move? That remains to be seen. This could be all public relations posturing from an organization that has taken a number of PR hits over the past 20 years.
But team president Dave Kaval insists that the A’s are serious about moving, and says they have already begun the process of speaking with other cities that could potentially be their new home. He said as much when he joined Papa & Lund on Wednesday, a day after the relocation story broke.
Kaval attempted to clarify a number of issues during the interview, including a claim that the city’s issue has little to do with money, as the A’s would finance nearly the entire stadium. It should be noted that independent reporting disputes this notion, listing the public’s share of the approximately $12 billion project at $2.2 billion (450 million in community benefits, $955 million in general fund revenues and an $855 million commitment from the city for infrastructure improvements).
Kaval also gave a reason as to why the A’s believe the Coliseum site is not considered a viable location to build on.
“The site here is really a manifestation of the 1960s design for ballparks and sports venues,” Kaval told Papa & Lund on Wednesday. “Destination, lots of on-site parking, just kind of like in a big parking lot. That was all over the country. That was in places like Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium (Braves) and Riverfront (Reds) and all these stadiums across the country. Candlestick was kind of like that.
“But that model has shifted. All the modern stadiums since the 90s and Camden Yards have really been built in these downtown urban corridors and been really successful. Obviously Oracle Park is an example of that, so is Petco Park down in San Diego, and that is really the model that we’re looking for in success in baseball.
“On top of that, as you’ve seen, the Warriors and the Raiders left this site. So you have a situation where the other teams have spoken where it isn’t something that made sense.”
KNBR’s Greg Papa quibbled with that last point, reminding Kaval that the Raiders did in fact want to build on the Coliseum site, but left for other reasons. Kaval conceded the point, then argued that the location actually could work for football, but not baseball.
“Well I will say personally, in my experience in sports, I think a football stadium can work in more of a parking lot configuration, because there’s so few dates. People only need to come eight days a year and they’ll come from a farther distance, but in baseball and also in arenas, they do much better in the downtown urban areas. That’s what you’re kind of seeing across the country and that’s what we’re looking to do in a downtown location in Oakland.”
Finally Kaval was asked if reclusive owner John Fisher has any interest in selling the team, as it is believed in some corners that new ownership would be willing to build on the Coliseum site and finance a new stadium with exclusively private money. Kaval said that will not happen.
“The team is not for sale, and it’s important to understand that we’ve done everything possible to make it work here in Oakland for the last five years. Not other team even tried to stay, if you remember, neither the Raiders or the Warriors. They decided pretty much at the beginning to leave. We think we have a great plan, we’re hoping it’s successful. But if it’s not we’re going to look at other options because we have a lease through 2024 and at the current venue we can barely keep the lights on.”
Listen to the full interview below.